Beginner Body Weight Workout: Lose Weight, Build Muscle ANYWHERE!

So you want to get in shape, but you have no gym membership. Ruh roh…

That’s fine, you don’t need one to get in great shape! You can work out anywhere, like me in the photo above, doing push-ups on a cliff in South Africa.

I usually find that commercial gyms are tough places to work out anyways, as they’re home to pushy salesman, can be intimidating, and other members might not be very welcoming. (If you DO go to a gym, here’s how to successfully navigate a commercial gym).

Luckily, you can burn fat, build muscle, and get a great workout using just your body weight.  In fact, Learn why cardio can often be one of the least efficient methods of burning calories, and how you can get a lot done in a little bit of time.  By doing body weight circuits, where you complete one exercise right after the other without stopping, you’re both building muscle and getting a cardiovascular workout.

Combine that with a good diet and you got yourself a kick-ass plan to follow!

Why Body Weight Circuits Kick Ass

What makes body weight circuits work so well?

Every exercise involved utilizes multiple muscle groups, gets your heart rate pumping, and burns tons of calories.  Check out this interview from Jason Ferruggia and Alwyn Cosgrove, two fitness gurus whose opinions and research I highly respect.  Essentially, circuit weight training burns more calories than interval training, which burns WAY more calories than steady cardio.  Essentially, if you’re trying to lose weight, spending hours doing cardio on a treadmill is a really crappy use of your time.

I’m going to take you through a basic workout today that can be completed in your house, apartment, out at a park, in your parents’ basement, wherever.  As always, make sure you are cleared by your personal physician for physical activity before attempting these exercises.    Proceed at your own risk!

Beginner Body Weight Workout

 

This is a basic body weight circuit. In a circuit routine, you’ll do each exercise in succession without a break in between (if you’re able).  Once you’ve finished all exercises in the circuit, you do it again.  If you’re still able after the 2nd run through, go for a third.  Because all of these exercises come one after another, you’re bound to get tired.  It’s better to stop and take a break than to do an exercise incorrectly.  If you can’t do all three circuits without stopping, that gives you something to build towards.

Before you start, WARM UP – Never ever ever ever forget to warm up.  Make sure to get your heart rate pumping and get your muscles warm or you’re just asking for injury.  If you’re strapped for time, cut short your workout, not your warm up.  You can run in place, jump rope, do a few push ups, pedal on a stationary bike, jog up and down your stairs, etc.  Don’t wear yourself out completely, but get your heart rate elevated and little bit of sweat never hurt anybody.

After the warm up, here is exactly what you need to do:

And so you can write it down, here is the write up for the exercise routine.

  • 20 body weight squats
  • 10 push ups
  • 20 walking lunges
  • 10 dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug)
  • 15 second plank
  • 30 Jumping Jacks

After you’ve completed your workout, make sure you stretch. All of your muscles have been contracted from lifting and need to be stretched back out and rebuilt.

For either the body weight squats or lunges, if you can’t do them properly yet, it’s okay to put your hand on a support to keep your balance.

For the body weight squats, think of it like sitting back into a chair. If you can sit down onto a chair, and then stand immediately right back up without having to lean forward, you are in balance.

For the lunges, keep your eyes ahead and your upper body completely vertical. I had a slight bend at times in the video due to trying to exercise and explain at the same time.

I used a milk jug for my dumbbell, but you can use whatever is heavy enough for you. Find something that is challenging to lift 10 times in a row.

Do this routine 2-3 times a week, but never on consecutive days.  You don’t build muscle when you’re exercising, you build muscle when you’re resting.  Generally I follow a pattern of strength training on one day, then 20 minutes of interval training on the next, then strength training, then interval training, and so on.  You never want to do a strength routine two days straight (of the same muscle groups), as your muscles haven’t had time to recover.

Along with this routine, you need to make sure you’re eating properly! A good workout and crappy diet will not get you anywhere.  Lots of real foods (fruits, vegetables, lean meat, nuts, etc.).  Eat natural, whole foods whenever possible, and leave the soda, candy, and junk food out of your system.  Your diet is at least 80% of your success or failure.

Help Me Help You

Leave a comment and let me know how it was for you, and your fitness level (total n00b, beginner, some experience, etc.). If you can get through all three circuits, let me know how long it took you.

If this routine is too easy for you, I have an Advanced Body Weight Circuit too.  You’ve been warned 🙂

-Steve

PS: If you’re looking for a little more direction, high definition video demonstrations of each exercise, boss battles, a full questing system, more than a dozen more workouts, and a full guide on how to eat properly, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy!  

I’m really proud of what we’ve put together.

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  • Animish

    Hello Broda,

    I am a skinny teenager who thinks he eats a lot. As compared to My regular Gym going friends with a well built body, I DO EAT A LOT, but never put on muscle or even fats. I want to go Gymming and get a strong body and also develop a long lasting physical stamina. How do I go on with it? Please Help.

  • Shyam Shukla

    The Most Complete Muscle Cookbook And Nutrition Guide For Bodybuilding & Fitness With Over 200 Muscle Building Recipes
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  • Danielle De La Wonk

    Ahhh, it’s day 4 and already I’m making a pigs ear of it. I found this place after trying to look up how to do a proper push up (turns out I can’t) so I’ve signed up to the 100 push ups as well and there are physio exercises and stretches I do every day plus later on I’ll be gearing up to perform circus stuff and I’ve already overwhelmed myself…. don’t know which or what I should do first or last or what… can you tell that anxiety is one of the things that holds me back?

  • Shift Hawke

    Deadpool would be another funny one.

  • Shift Hawke

    That’s why this site is so awesome. It may be backwards shorts, but it was a genuine accident and you rolled with it. It’s something I would do lol.

  • Shift Hawke

    Hey there. When I was in the Navy, I pretty much only did body weight exercises. I gained somewhere around 8lbs but lost a size and a half. I love body weight exercises. It’s a little hard now that I have pfs with recurrent shin splints. But come hell or high water, I’m getting back in shape. I appreciate this site, and your book. I’m only 15 pages in and I can’t stop cracking up. Plus I love the references. I constantly make game references people don’t understand. I’m excited to get down to a better weight and go back to a gym. But body weight exercises are life.

  • Abishek Asokan

    Can I replace the dumbbell rows with chin ups?

  • lea

    hey @nerdfitness. i have a question. i am so thin overall but i have a big belly. how do i get rid of it and why do i have it in the first place.

  • HealthSpectra

    Great Video ! Thank you for Sharing!

  • WiiLifter

    i used a wii for the dumbbell

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  • Alejandro Silva

    I just started today and I ended up exhausted! I’m a total n00b so after stretching I felt asleep on the couch

  • Dylan A

    Hey Steve I just found this workout online and i tried it for the first time a little while ago, it kicked my butt. I was wondering if you could which of the excercises works out which muscles. Thanks if you do

  • Syncere Marcus Ashcraft

    Great video and information! Bodyweight workouts are so convenient and anyone can do them. I love how you showed that there are no excuses by adding the milk jug. lol. Your exercise routine was simple yet effective and I guarantee if people stick to it, they will see results fast! Great job and thanks for the post!

    http://www.GetFitNation.biz

  • Frienx

    Obese fellow here, over 350 lb. — I am able to do the push-ups, plank, rows and jumping jacks just fine but the squats and especially the lunges are leaving me almost light-headed when I try for the full set. For someone lugging around as much sogginess as I am are there any suggestions on how best to keep to the routine without killing myself?

  • Apartment Workouts

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  • Lois

    I do 1km of speed walking… then what u do and rhen 50 sit ups and 50 squats and if u do it everyday its really good xx thanks your tips really helped

  • Kat

    Wow this was great! I made it through one set but I was able to do all of the exercise (except for a first ever attempt at a plank. That was about 5 seconds!) This will be a great addition to the walking I have been trying to add to my daily life!

  • Conner Giles

    Hi, just want to say i love this workout! Most of the time i get the 3rd circuit done & push for a 4th one and smash it! But I’m curious as I’ve been doing this for around a week now and wondered if it’s safe to do this workout twice a day in the AM & then in the PM? & Also if i should be taking rest days as well. (I’m currently trying to put on weight as I’m really skinny for my age.) & Having a shake straight after. I wonder if i even get a reply as this post have been around for years. :-p

  • Mandar Rane

    Sounds Bluff… 24 Kg in 2 months (8 weeks) … thats too much .. also 90-24=66 .. sounds bluff…

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve Kamb

    hey Conor

    I would NOT do this 2x a day, instead I would up the intensity of the workout, and focus on eating more. If you’re not getting bigger, it’s not that you’re not working out enough, it’s that you’re not eating enough 🙂

    Read this: https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/a-skinny-guys-guide-to-building-muscle-and-bulking-up/

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve Kamb

    Hold onto something for support during the squats or lunges! and don’t push yourself so much that you can’t move the next day 🙂 We’re looking to stimulate, not annihilate.

    The battle is fought 90% in the kitchen, so do what you can on this workout, and then go for walks (even just 5 min) and focus on your nutrition.

    Good on ya for tackling this!

  • https://www.nerdfitness.com/ Steve Kamb

    if you can do chin-ups, YES!

  • Alex

    Hello, I’ve only just started the routine today and I have a few questions.
    How long will it take before I see improvement if I follow this routine step by step?
    I’m a skinny person and I was also wondering if this routine will be good for skinny people?
    Thanks a lot.
    Alex

  • Amanda Evans

    Morning, does anyone know what equipment I can use as a beginner for strength training. I am concerned about form and still cannot properly do a push up or plank without the instructor coming over.

  • Colby

    What would be a good strength workout for days in between this workout?

  • Melinda Black

    I just have a problem eating that things I should be eating… while on a strict budget… any suggestions?

  • Brandon Black

    My problem is what should I be eating ? And eating on a strict budget ? I would like to do better.

  • Kat

    high cholesterol can be caused by many factors, one being your good ole genes. Some people just naturally produce more cholesterol, and may need medications over time. Having a healthy BMI, exercising, and diet are all factors in having a better chance at reducing the high cholesterol, but there is still a chance that these will not help with the cholesterol BUT it will decrease your chances of disease progression in most cases.

  • Bob

    Thanks what are good stretches to do when you are done and what if I dont have something to lift is there another arm exercise

  • Bob

    Also how exhausted should you be by the end if you are skinny and this is your first time doing it? I wasnt too exhausted after doing the circuit twice, a bit of sweat and breathing heavily for a few mins although the first time I wasnt quite doing them right

  • Bob

    Final question what areas should I feel pain because I dont want to tear a muscle because when I do push ups my shoulders and arms reeeaaalllyy take it hard where as the other exercises I dont feel much pain at all only strain

  • sagar singh

    What to do if one day say Monday I do this routine ,then what next day as u said don’t do in a straight row,. And this routine only I have to follow or mixup with others(on the same day) ,

  • Amy

    So I started your beginner body workout 2 months ago and I am feeling awesome! I can’t thank you enough!!! I do have one question though that I cannot find an answer for with a google search. While my family loves that I’m getting in shape there is one negative side effect. If someone tries to talk to me/ask me for something either during or directly after my workout I’m a total asshat. I’m usually out of breathe and sweating and cannot think clearly. Help! Any recommendations on how I can get a good excercise without being a huge jerk?

  • Kylash Srishanmuganathan

    When and how many times are you supposed to stop or is it just 45 mins of repeating?

  • New2017!

    Hi! I’m about 105lbs and 5.1ft. I’m trying to lose belly and calves fat. I’ve always had a problem with my protein. Is this the right routine for me to start off with? Thanks!

  • Daniel

    i just stumbled onto this page a few days ago and i have to say..
    ABOUT BLOODY TIME!!
    not to hard, not to easy; the perfect workout for beginners like me. i just started cleaning up my diet too so i’s feeling pretty optimistic. took me about 15-20 minutes to complete and my god did it feel good. keep up the great work!

  • Kimie landry

    I came across your sight and it got my attention so that’s a plus..I have a question for ya? I’m a barely 30yr female and I’ve had a Bilateral Hip Replacements within the last year an a half and was wondering if you have any suggestions on what exercises would be better suited for me. Thank you for your time!
    Turtle..

  • butts

    i did this for the first time today and made it through 2 circuits. my only critique was that it felt pretty leg heavy with the lunges and squats so I’ll probably add at least sit-ups or crunches next time. nice guide!

  • Dawn Wheatley

    Im a beginner and im really nervous to try this ive just failed at so many im lost on what to eat during the window on a tight tight budget and how much

  • Nellie

    I just started four days ago but my bloating ,insomnia,fatigue,constipation ,weakness,headeche etc are all gone ,I’m energetic and surely this is where I’m going to be fit thanks keep up the good work

  • Ben Crowley

    This is a great workout. Many of the workout I’ve looked at mainly have a theme. going to the gym to use the equipment. I’m only suited to one type of gym… a Pokemon gym. When I think of a fitness gym, I think “Ahh big scary dude on my left and even bigger dude on my right.” That really degraded me. So I stuck to the one thing I knew best. Dying in Dark Souls. Apart from school, the only other thing that required a basic level of fitness was the Army Cadets. But that came to an end last week, so fitness went with it. So I did what everyone does when they are stuck on a mission in Borderlands, I took to the internet. It didn’t take long to find the droids I was looking for. This wonderful site. It’s like a strategy guide to FTL (damn rebal flagship). Hopefully I rope my brother into this and one day attend the academy.
    Thank you for this. I can now say that the new fitness/gamer me starts now.
    Ben
    P.s. Couldn’t help it with the gamer remarks

  • RiverTam

    Do you have any modifications for the squats and lunges that a person with an ACL injury can use? Unfortunately, mine is only attached on one end thanks to me being ambushed by a car and it causes me troubles to this day. Thanks!

  • Jamie Harper

    how many calories can this beginner body weight workout burn? I’m 16 and my BMI is 23.8. I’m at the high end of the healthy range. I want to get just about average or higher while also gaining a lot more muscles. I’m tired of having a round stomach

  • Jamie Harper

    by higher i mean lower, apologies.

  • Andreas Alfred Rokkjær

    Hey man great write up!
    I used to be a professional athlete, quit one day to the other. Now i’ve gotten soft and fat, and want to get back into shape. This program is just what i needed, however there is one challenge that i need help with: I have a very hard time accepting that my body cannot do the same things as it could before, which takes my motivation.
    Any feedback on this sticking point?

  • Kasturika Shankar

    Hi
    I’ve just joined a gym and I’m an absolute beginner.
    The work out plan that they gave me seems to be quite stressful​ as it requires each exercise like pushups, leg press among others to be done 20*3 form which is bit too much for me.
    Can you please recommend a more lighter, denser and effective workout as I want to kick start it with low intensity till I build endurance.

  • Donna Gettings Apperson

    But, but, no milk on my paleo diet. What will I lift? 🙂

  • Ross

    Whether you lost that amount or not, losing 24 kilo’s in 8 weeks is way too extreme. That’s a rate of around 1lb/day which means you would’ve lost muscle too. Not worth it in my opinion.

    One other thing I wanted to add to this article is how important your diet is. I had OK results when I first started body weight workouts, but my physique transformed when I stumbled upon carb cycling. If you’re unfamiliar with carb cycling, it’s basically a strategic way of eating carbohydrates and it’s really effective for fat loss. Shaun Hadsall has a whole guide on this concept and it’s brilliant. I’ll leave a direct link to his guide below to anyone interested:

    CarbCycling.INFO

    Body weight workouts combined with carb cycling has been a game-changer for me when it comes to burning fat. Hope this helps.

  • Ross

    One other thing I wanted to add to this article is how important your diet is. I had OK results when I first started body weight workouts, but my physique transformed when I stumbled upon carb cycling. If you’re unfamiliar with carb cycling, it’s basically a strategic way of eating carbohydrates and it’s really effective for fat loss. Shaun Hadsall has a whole guide on this concept and it’s brilliant. I’ll leave a direct link to his guide below to anyone interested:

    CarbCycling.INFO

    Body weight workouts combined with carb cycling has been a game-changer for me when it comes to burning fat. Hope this helps!